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Making strides across the globe, Wilder proves one person can make a difference

Making strides across the globe, Wilder proves one person can make a difference
PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:

TOWNSEND — A Townsend
native is making a difference
in the world, one fence
post at a time.

Julie Wilder, 24, is serving
a two-year and three-month
stint with the Peace Corps
in San Gabriel, Costa
Rica.

San Gabriel is located
in the northeastern portion
of Costa Rica, and has
recognized a great need
for a fence to protect
its school’s property,
including the community’s
only soccer field.

It is a very small community
with 140 residents. The
town center consists of
a community building,
two school buildings and
a community kitchen, which
is in poor condition.

Julie’s father,
John Wilder, said his
daughter’s work
with the Peace Corps “is
for youth and community
development. Each community
has one Peace Corps volunteer
who interfaces with the
government and the people.
It is quite the experience
for her.”

Wilder said his daughter
is involved in more than
just the fence project.

“She is also working
on getting houses built
for the people of the
community. She has started
a woman’s soccer
team, and works on getting
done whatever the community
needs.”

Having no fence to protect
school property allows
for easy access by any
animal, vehicle and stranger,
especially considering
its close location to
a principle road. The
teachers and students
lack a comfortable, secure
educational environment.
With a fence in place,
the students and teachers
will have a safer place
to learn.

Wilder said his daughter
“is tenacious, like
her father, so the projects
she works on get done.
She loves what she is
doing in the Peace Corps.”

Wilder explained the Peace
Corps is a two-year, three-month
commitment, and Julie
is coming up on her two
year anniversary.

“In January, it
will be two years for
her. She will be completed
in April of next year,”
he said.

The Peace Corps was officially
established on March 1,
1961, by then Sen. John
F. Kennedy, when he challenged
students at the University
of Michigan to serve their
country in the cause of
peace by living and working
in developing countries.
To date, there have been
182,000 volunteers trained
and 138 countries served,
according to the Peace
Corps Web site.

When communications finally
cooperated, Julie was
able to talk on her cell
phone for a brief interview.

“One project is
trying to build houses
for 30 people, and the
other is the fence project,”
the 24-year-old said.
“We also have a
new high school for kids
that have dropped out.
They can get back into
school with a video program
that works.”

Wilder first arrived in
Costa Rica in January
2002.

“The school here
had absolutely no money.
The things we took for
granted when we were in
school, they just didn’t
have them. There wasn’t
even money for the children
to have a party,”
she said.

Wilder began to see the
natives didn’t have
any confidence in themselves
to work together to begin
some fund-raising and
help the situation out.

“I became very frustrated
that no one was doing
anything, so I began to
have meetings with the
people of the village.
I was honest with them
and told them what I saw
and thought, and if they
could learn to work together
like a community, they
could do something good
for the entire community.”

Wilder then showed them
how to organize a raffle,
then a dance for the surrounding
communities, a pageant
and a soccer festival.

“Once I showed them
what they could do, they
started raising the money,
so there was a party at
the school for the students,”
she said.

Wilder finds her Peace
Corps work challenging,
but rewarding.

“I almost quit;
just walked away because
I felt I couldn’t
do anything. It was frustrating,
but then it started to
come together,”
she said. “Now I
am seeing some progress,
and I know I am helping
out.”

Wilder is the only Peace
Corps worker in that particular
area.

“There is such a
need in so many places
they cannot put more than
one worker in each place.”

She said she has also
learned the slang terms
the natives use, so the
language barrier is almost
nonexistent.

“Each community
has their own words for
things, or ways to say
something. I learned how
they talk, so we can communicate
just fine,” said
Wilder.

With her fence project,
Wilder said she has gotten
a foundation to make a
$1,300 donation to the
cause.

“However, to do
it right it’s going
to take about $7,000,”
she said.

There is only one dirt
road that runs through
the village she is in,
the weather is warm and
dry.

“This is winter
here, it’s supposed
to be rainy, but we haven’t
gotten any rain yet. It’s
very dusty and buggy,”
she said.

Wilder is planning on
coming back to the area
when she is done her stint.

“I am engaged, and
looking forward to coming
home, looking for a job,
and beginning my life
once again. This is definitely
an experience of a lifetime
though,” she said.

Wilder cannot solicit
funds herself for the
projects she is working
on. However, anyone wishing
to donate to the fence
project to get it completed
before she leaves can
make a donation online
at www.peacecorps.gov.
Scroll down to the Costa
Rica section. The Web
site shows the project
still needs $5,744 to
come to fruition.

“We are all very
proud of Julie for her
work and contributions
to society,” John
Wilder said.